Closer to Home

Chapter 3

Peter watched as Michael worked; nailing board after board across each and every window… barring any means of escape for the boy.

The new measure did mean, however, that Michael seemed happy to release Peter’s hands from their bonds, and allow the boy some freedom to move about the house… but Peter felt like he was in a cage, and he was desperate to get out.

“There...” Michael stood back to admire his handy-work, and Peter felt his heart sink a little more at the sight of the boarded-up nursery window; the window he had first entered so many years ago.

Against his will, Peter’s thoughts drifted back to Wendy and the terrible tale Michael had told of her fate. The idea that she had been taken away and imprisoned stabbed at his heart… but he quickly pushed the emotion away with a sharp intake of breath.

He realised then that Michael had turned and was starring at him. Peter felt uncomfortable under the man’s scrutiny, and shifted his weight awkwardly under the man’s intense gaze.

“Let’s play a game!” A huge grin appeared on Michael’s face; an expression that was not mirrored by the boy before him.

Instead, Peter appeared full of reluctance… but he was anxious not to anger his unpredictable captor.

“I’m quite tired...” Michael’s smile fell away as Peter made his excuses.

“Perhaps later...”

“No, Peter! Why wait? Let’s play something now!”

Michael moved towards the boy, and Peter hurriedly stepped backwards. Both halted, and became motionless; the man beseeching, the child fearfully conceiving a crude plan.

“Very well. Let’s play… hide and seek.”

Michael literally jumped up and down with glee.

“Oh, yes! Hide and seek! I love hide and seek!” He clapped his hands excitedly, as a young boy might, and Peter allowed his confidence to grow.

“Excellent. You may hide first. I’ll count to one hundred.”

Peter turned his face to the wall and covered his eyes, about to start the count… but fear filled him suddenly as he felt Michael grab his shoulders roughly, and spin him back to face him.

The man’s face was only inches from Peter’s own, and Michael’s eyes were filled with anger and suspicion.

“You don’t really want to play with me at all! You’re pretending. You just want me out of the way so you can try to leave!”

Peter tried to pull back from Michael’s grasp, but the adult was too strong.

“You nasty, selfish liar!”

“No! Michael! I will play with you. Please… Let go of me! You’re hurting!”

“How dare you try to trick me! You’re so ungrateful.”

Michael’s grasp tightened, until Peter could bear it no more; he wriggled and lashed out with his fists until the man finally paused. But Michael had not stilled because of Peter; the sound of the doorbell had, once again, sounded, and it seemed to freeze Michael to the spot.

Peter blinked, also surprised by the sudden noise and its effect on Michael. After another anxious moment of listening, Michael roughly shoved Peter further into the nursery, releasing him so that he stumbled and almost fell. When Peter managed to keep his footing and looked back at his captor, Michael put a finger to his lips in a gesture of silence, then rushed from the room, slamming the door shut and locking it.

Peter immediately sprang at the door and pulled at its handle, trying desperately to tug it open. When that failed he paused to listen, and could hear Michael’s footfalls reverberating through the house, and the doorbell being rung again.

Hearing muffled voices, Peter realised Michael had reached the front door, and time was running out for Peter to alert the caller to his plight.

Dashing across the room, Peter grabbed up the hammer that Michael had left discarded, and began trying to wrench the wooden boards from the nursery window with it. At the same time, he shouted at the top of his voice, desperately hoping he would be heard.

Standing with the front door opened just enough to peer out at the man on the doorstep, Michael flinched as the sound of Peter’s screams reached him. The postman’s manner clearly altered, and he couldn’t help but glance up at the house as its owner finished writing his signature, and took the parcel from the postman’s outstretched hands.

Michael stared at the man, trying to gage his reaction. He obviously had heard the noise, and seemed to grow uncomfortable and eager to be on his way. Catching his eye, Michael tried to give him an amicable smile, and muttered, “Kids...”

The postman awkwardly grinned back, then turned and walked briskly back to the road.

Peter had managed to pry one of the boards away from the window, and was desperately banging on the glass as he watched the man leave. He must have heard him! Why was he leaving? Peter felt his hope fade once more… replaced by fear at the realisation that Michael would return at any moment.

As if on cue, the nursery door burst open and Michael marched in. Seeing Peter still standing before the window, with the hammer still in one hand and his other pressed against the exposed glass, Michael flew at him.

“I told you not to make any noise! How dare you defy me?!”

Peter made to smash the window with the hammer, but Michael had hold of him before he could strike a blow.

“Let go of me!”

Peter struggled in the man’s grasp as Michael dragged him towards the nursery door. In desperation Peter swung the hammer, and was startled when it connected with Michael, who screamed in anger as well as pain, dropping the boy to the floor.

Holding his shoulder where the pain had blossomed, Michael looked down at Peter with a look of betrayal. Then frustration and contempt burned in his eyes, and he dragged the boy to his feet and frantically shook him until tears streamed down Peter’s face.

Seeming to suddenly notice the state of the child cowering before him, Michael loosened his grip and let his face soften. An expression of concern came upon him as he realised Peter wouldn’t look him in the eye, and was continuing to weep silently.

“Peter,”

Michael drew Peter towards him and wrapped his arms around the boy. Peter did not resist Michael’s embrace, too frightened and exhausted to upset the man any further.

“Peter, you shouldn’t have made so much noise. You could have spoiled everything. I only want to keep you safe. We can be happy here… together.”

Having had a few moments to calm himself, still in Michael’s embrace, Peter took a deep breath, and tried a long shot;

“Please, Michael… I just want to go home. Please let me go home.”

Michael pulled back so he could look the boy in the eye. Peter saw the man’s face was filled with what looked like surprise and confusion.

“But Peter… You are home.”

“No… Michael, please… I want to go home to Neverland.”

Again, the man looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“But Peter… This is Neverland.”

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